South Boston News & Record
and Mecklenburg Sun
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Beware the Drones
SoVaNow.com / January 17, 2013Should hunters fear becoming the hunted? By unmanned surveillance drones?
Not in Virginia, if a bill introduced by State Senator Frank Ruff survives the killing fields … er, legislative review process … of the current session of the General Assembly.
Ruff’s legislation, Senate Bill 954, would outlaw “the use of a drone by a private person to monitor and photograph persons lawfully hunting on private property, when the drone is used by a private person without the permission of the landowner.” Offenders could be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor and subject to a $500 fine for impeding hunting.
Coming from a General Assembly known for its occasional flirtation with outlandish ideas, Ruff’s bill has drawn notice. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the legislation takes aim at “those unmanned aircraft that have risen to prominence over the last couple of years as lethal and low-risk military intelligence tools in the war against terror,” although Ruff notes the bill actually has nothing to do with drone warfare.
Instead, it was inspired by a story Ruff read about a hunt club in Pennsylvania that came under surveillance by a miniature remote-controlled aircraft flying overhead with a videocamera. The craft was launched by an animal rights group, Ruff said, and the hunters shot it down.
Not only does Ruff intend to ward off such opportunities for creative target shooting in Virginia, he is worried about the potential for unwelcome aerial surveillance — obnoxious, perhaps, but not at the moment illegal.
For example, he said, someone could strap a smart phone to a remote-controlled miniature helicopter and fly it over a hunter’s property, or anyone else’s property, for that matter, without violating the law. Ruff said that after thinking over the matter, he believes a public debate on the use of drone craft is warranted: “We need to be aware of these issues so we’re mindful of the rights of citizens.
“There are enough people doing this to spy on their neighbors — friends or enemies, either one — that it’s a little disturbing someone could take one of these flying devices and fly it up to your second story bedroom window and look at what you and your wife are doing,” said Ruff.
Ruff’s bill survived an initial review by the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, which takes up legislation that pertains to hunting. The committee agreed the bill raises legal issues outside its purview and unanimously referred it over to the Senate Courts of Justice committee.
Fellow Southside Republican James Edmunds, who sits on the natural resources committee in the House of Delegates, hasn’t reviewed the bill but chuckled when he was asked about it: “If I had the means to get a hot air balloon, I could do [the same thing], right?” said Edmunds.
Edmunds said the bill raises obvious questions about the extent to which hunters could claim encroachment onto their property: “It’s a precedent where you’d begin to determine that your property rights go up,” he said. “In order for this to work, you’ll have to define where your property rights begin, and how high they go up.
“Can I fly a hovercraft over your farm?”
An animal rights organization similar to the Pennsylvania group that inspired the legislation — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — brushed off Ruff’s bill after being sought out for an opinion. “There are already drones in use in cities and [closed circuit TV] cameras in use all over the globe, and there are already people flying Ultralights and other aircraft all over woods, streams and cities,” wrote Nicole Dao, PETA national spokesperson, in an e-mail yesterday. “This is nothing new and nothing to worry about unless hunters are breaking the law, and perhaps many of them are by, for example, failing to track injured animals, who suffer and die slowly.”
In a follow-up e-mail, Dao expanded on the organization’s view: “We believe that everyone who supports an open society will find Sen. Ruff’s bill not only needlessly reactionary but also counter to the interests of an open society,” she wrote.
Ruff disagrees, citing potential risks to privacy: “I got to thinking about how there are a lot of things that can happen that shouldn’t happen,” he said. “The technology has gotten way ahead of us.”
CommentsI guess from the tone of the article that the Halifax and Mecklenburg Pravda, supports our Dear Leader an does not have a problem with drones. I support Frank in his efforts.
- By allpolitical2 on 01 / 17 / 13
CommentsWe're under constant surveillance whether or not we know of or agree to it. If you have a cell phone you can be tracked anywhere that phone goes; likewise if your car has OnStar. Your every move on your computer can be tracked if a nosy LEO deems it necessary to do so, even without a search warrant.
Just because we have the technology does not mean we should use it. But, it delights nosy types who love to snoop in other peoples' private lives. Too many people enable that fetish with their social media pages. I know several whose Facebook prattle has landed them in trouble with their employer.
Anymore I'm convinced technology has become a tool of the devil, or at least his minions on Earth.
PETA? Pfft. The vast majority of its membership are irrational radicals. Not saying animals should be mistreated, but neither should they be deified at expense of humans. PETA along with Greenpeace can realistically be classed as terrorist organizations, given some of the tactics they use.
- By powerhouse on 01 / 17 / 13
CommentsCareful Frankie, if the Uranium mining passes you gonna need those drones to track the evil uranium trucks leaking all of that nasty uranium all over the place, or put Jack Dunavant in a hot air balloon, he already has the hot air.
- By Careful on 01 / 17 / 13
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